Portimao: Karim Ajlani race report

Reliability issues cost Ajlani podium shot at Algarve 1000kms A number of niggling reliability issues cost Syrian racing driver Karim Ajlani and his French team-mate Matthieu Lahaye a shot at a class podium in round 3 of the Le Mans Series, the...

Reliability issues cost Ajlani podium shot at Algarve 1000kms

A number of niggling reliability issues cost Syrian racing driver Karim Ajlani and his French team-mate Matthieu Lahaye a shot at a class podium in round 3 of the Le Mans Series, the Algarve 1000kms.

The pair's OAK Racing Pescarolo-Mazda undoubtedly had the pace to secure a top three finish in the night race at the brand-new Portuguese circuit, proved when Lahaye had charged from the back of the LMP2 grid to third place in the opening few laps.

Unfortunately a fuel pressure issue, two slow punctures and a broken spark plug limited the duo to a sixth place finish in the LMP2 category and 12th overall.

"It's a shame because all the OAK Racing team has worked really hard since Le Mans," said Ajlani, who this season became the first ever Syrian driver to take part in the legendary 24 Hour endurance race. "A ten-place grid penalty for changing the engine after the last round in Spa put us well down the grid, but Matthieu did brilliantly at the start to get up to third. Sadly, all the different problems we encountered meant we had 11 pit stops compared to six for most of our rivals. That obviously left us a little further down the finishing order than our performance really merited."

The 4.692km circuit located near the Algarve town of Portimao opened its doors for the first time less than 12 months ago meaning few of the LMS drivers had raced there before. The challenging nature of the track's layout was also amplified by the fact that the race represented the LMS' first real 'night race'.

"We were one of the few teams that have not tested here and we had some problems in practice which limited our track time. Despite that we were on the pace quite quickly," said Karim. "It is a very demanding circuit both mentally and physically. There are a lot of corners and at no point can you relax, which during such a long race is quite testing, especially at night. I really enjoyed the challenge of learning another new track though."

Despite the frustration at missing out on a high finishing position, Ajlani was eager to draw the positives from a weekend which saw the team make another step forward in terms of performance.

"I think we really showed just how much potential the car has got and we just need to work a bit on reliability now," he said. "I'm looking forward to the next round at the Nurburgring as the track should really suit the car. We'll work hard over the next few weeks to prepare for the race and hope that we can get back on the podium."

-credit: karim-ajlani.com

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About this article
Series European Le Mans
Drivers Karim Ajlani , Matthieu Lahaye
Teams OAK Racing